A Designer’s Mind
And Other Corrosive Materials from Outer Banks Design Works.
Solving Web Problems
In my daily routine I am increasingly asked to do things that are more complex in nature, are more creatively-challenging, and (often times) more rewarding. The Web offers the greatest possibility of reaching the most customers, but there is a price to be paid if the client wants things done appropriately.
It seems that there is a new trend emerging in the Web business, which has been commented on elsewhere, that raises huge concerns for me regarding the state of the Web design business in general: “price tag” work and the “show me what you can do prior to receiving payment” syndrome. Businesses all over the country are playing what was somewhat affectionately-named “tire kickers.” These are folks that are simply “window shopping” for creative services. They want to see their new Web sites before they pay for them. They want to take the site for a spin around the block before deciding to buy. This spells danger for the creative professional and let me explain why.
First off, the Web by its very nature is ambiguous (as in “indistinct”). The Web itself doesn’t care that you have a great product/service/idea to sell or that you have a six-figure budget for Web development services. In fact, the Web doesn’t give two hoots about you. The Web just “is.”
The Web will also not solve your problems for you. It is the job of the professional people, not the technology, to determine how best to represent your great product/service/idea. Creative professionals cannot just “magically” create a customized Web presence tailored just for you without first knowing you and your company. It is just not going to happen.
What Web Professionals Do Best
The point of this article is to try and help consumers (e.g. those “shopping” for a Web site) understand one simple fact: the Web will not solve your problems for you. That is the job of a Web Professional. We, as professionals, need to sit down with you first and try to understand what your business is about. We would then need to try and determine a feasible solution for your company based on many factors, not limited to:
- Time: Knowing that a project is due by a certain timeframe affects pricing.
- Budget: Knowing how much the client is willing to spend affects the type of site that a client can ultimately afford.
- Staff: Knowing who will maintain the finished site can also affect the type of site that is built.
With all of the variants and budget issues to deal with turning to a fix-price system seems to be a means for the client to try and take control of the Web Development process; to sort of put the reins on this unruly beast called “Web Design.” The true Web Professional knows that this system will not work because there are too many variants to contend with.
The true professional also knows that it is his or her job to solve the client’s problem(s) and not to try hammering the square peg into the round hole. “Cookie cutter” design templates have been around for about as long as the Web itself. That doesn’t mean these templates are suitable for a particular client. Unfortunately, we have our own half-(assed) brothers and sisters to blame. These Web “stylists” are Web Designers no more than a “hair stylist” is a “hair designer.” Stylists follow a template or pattern, while designers create those templates and patterns. So do you see where I am going with this?
Note to clients: if you want solid, usable, customized design services then you must be willing to listen to the designer and also realize that creativity cannot be turned on of off like your kitchen faucet. To truly solve your problems requires time and patience on your part with the designer. If you are willing to take something that is less-than-custom you must also be willing to accept that your site looks just like a hundred other sites (all of which are probably as worthless as your own). Creativity comes with a price tag that will certainly be more than what you paid for a template-based design.